Gaza War: ‘Breakthrough’ Boosts Hopes for Ceasefire Deal

  • author, Sebastian Asher
  • Role, BBC Middle East Analyst
  • Report from Jerusalem

The move appears to be essentially a first step in what could again become a complex series of discussions aimed at bridging the gap between the Israeli government and Hamas over what each side defines as the minimum for any potential agreement.

After Barnea left Doha, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said gaps remained between the two sides. Israeli officials had already said expectations needed to be lowered.

The latest glimmer of hope for an agreement came after Hamas submitted its response to President Biden’s three-stage proposal several weeks ago.

The key to this formula was to postpone what had long seemed like the main obstacle to either side accepting the deal — Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire and Israel’s counter-demand that it be given the freedom to resume fighting in Gaza if necessary.

Hamas’s proposals have not yet been revealed. But the Israeli response appears more positive than at any time in the past seven months, as the process has regained momentum. A source in the Israeli negotiating team said the Hamas proposal contained “a very significant breakthrough.”

There are indications that Hamas may accept the core point of President Biden’s proposal — that it would allow negotiations to achieve their goal of permanently ending the war through a six-week first phase of a ceasefire, rather than demanding it as a starting point.

Netanyahu has never wavered an inch from his public commitment to the complete elimination of Hamas—and to Israel’s right to continue fighting in Gaza after any ceasefire. He has resisted all pressure from within and outside Israel to modify that position.

But the pressure is increasing on him from all sides, relentlessly.

The final push appears to have come from within his own military. A recent New York Times article, citing unnamed current and former security officials, said that senior Israeli generals “want to initiate a cease-fire in Gaza even if it keeps Hamas in power for now.”

Netanyahu has dismissed this as surrender. But he may not be able to resist such pressure forever—not even the growing anger on the streets of Israel from those who want the remaining hostages in Gaza to be returned home now.

For Hamas, there are also signs of growing despair over the continuing war among those who suffer from it every day, namely the civilian population of Gaza. And internationally, the patience of mediators such as Egypt and Qatar may be wearing thin.

Comment on the photo, Hamas under pressure to end war for Palestinian civilians

Reports also indicate that regional states that wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause are putting increasing pressure on Hamas to accept the deal. The movement’s leaders may feel that the group’s apparent survival, even if it suffers severe political and military deterioration, may be victory enough.

For the Biden administration — still reeling from last week’s debate between the president and Donald Trump — a diplomatic success here would be a much-needed boost.

All these elements indicate that the hopes that have resurfaced once again may this time finally prove their ability to withstand the negative factors that led to their destruction in the past.

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